Steadfast by Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #2
Also in this series: Bittersweet, Steadfast (True North #2), Bittersweet, Keepsake, Bountiful (True North, #4)
Published by Rennie Road Books
Publication Date: July 12th 2016
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She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there's no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.
Sophie Haines is stunned by his reappearance. After a three year absence, the man who killed her brother and broke her heart is suddenly everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never volunteer in the church kitchen.
No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie's police chief father. But it's a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.
Keywords: Sarina Bowen, drug addiction, Vermont, True North series.
Steadfast is the second book in Bowen’s True North series. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jude, but I have to say, straight up, I loved him. His struggle was real, but he persevered and grabbed my heart along the way.
Jude was a rebellious teenager who ended up addicted to prescription pain meds. His mother took off when he was young and his father was a barely functional alcoholic. The only solid person in his life was Sophie, and he ruined that the day he drove high and killed her brother in a car accident. 3 and a half years later he’s out of prison and, after a stint in rehab and working on the Shipley farm, completely sober. He doesn’t want to be back in Colebury, but he needs money to go anywhere else, and jobs for convicted felons are in short supply, so he’s stuck working at his father’s shop until he can make enough to move out on his own.
When he imagines Sophie, he always figures she’s living her dream of being a singer in New York, or married to a great guy. He never expects to find her living in town, still single, and not pursing her dreams. He knows he bad for her. He knows he killed their future the same as he killed her brother. Yet he’s dying to know she’s okay.
Sophie is going to school and taking care of her mother, who completely checked out after her brother died. She was heartbroken when Jude went to prison. Not just for her family, but for Jude as well. No matter his crimes, she still loved him. But when she wrote him he returned her letters unopened, and she’s had three years to nurse her anger over the way he abandoned her. Since she had no idea he was out of prison, she’s shocked when she sees him in town. When he starts volunteering at the church where she works, she’s unable to avoid him. And she can’t deny she still craves him.
We met Jude in Bittersweet when he went to work for Griffin Shipley. He kept surprising me with how candid and open he was, though he didn’t talk a lot. I really enjoyed getting to know him better. He was forthright and steadfast, trying to stay sober and figure out what to do with his future. He still had cravings, and his struggle to stay clean was hard to read at times, but I loved how real he was.
What I struggled with was the why of Sophie’s feelings toward Jude, her family and the circumstances that pulled them apart. Jude killed her brother, yet she doesn’t seem too angry with him over it. She says she’s angry, but she doesn’t act like she is. There was no guilt over wanting to be with Jude, or regret for choosing him over her family. Her father was a nightmare and her mother had checked out. Plus it was mentioned that she and her brother weren’t close. But these seemed like thin excuses rather than explanations. Sophie seemed less angry that Jude killed her brother than she was that he didn’t write her while he was in prison.
I liked the two of them together. I truly believed they had a deep connection and relied on and needed each other. But the way things ended seemed too neat and tidy. It almost seemed like Sophie was pushing so hard to get Jude’s name cleared because she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – accept him the way he was. He was realistic about his recovery and very forthright about the mistakes he’d made. I wish she’d have accepted them, too, rather than pushing to prove he wasn’t at fault. She had understandable questions about the circumstances leading up to her brother’s death, so I understood when she tried to get the police report. But everything after that felt like a push to make it okay for her to be with Jude.
For all that, I truly enjoyed the novel. Jude’s trials and tribulations, and his romance with Sophie was well written and really drew me in. It was until after I finished that I realized how much Sophie’s actions bothered me. The story swept me away.
4 out of 5